Pesticide exposure has been associated with adverse cognitive and neurological effects. However, neuroimaging studies aimed at examining the impacts of pesticide exposure on brain networks underlying abnormal neurodevelopment in children remain limited. It has been demonstrated that pesticide exposure in children is associated with disrupted brain anatomy in regions that make up the default mode network (DMN), a subnetwork engaged across a diverse set of cognitive processes, particularly higher-order cognitive tasks. This study tested the hypothesis that functional brain network connectivity/topology in Latinx children from rural farmworker families (FW children) would differ from urban Latinx children from non-farmworker families (NFW children). We also tested the hypothesis that probable historic childhood exposure to pesticides among FW children would be associated with network connectivity/topology in a manner that parallels differences between FW and NFW children. We used brain networks from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 78 children and a mixed-effects regression framework to test our hypotheses. We found that network topology was differently associated with the connection probability between FW and NFW children in the DMN. Our results also indicated that, among 48 FW children, historic reports of exposure to pesticides from prenatal to 96 months old were significantly associated with DMN topology, as hypothesized. Although the cause of the differences in brain networks between FW and NFW children cannot be determined using a cross-sectional study design, the observed associations between network connectivity/topology and historic exposure reports in FW children provide compelling evidence for a contribution of pesticide exposure on altering the DMN network organization in this vulnerable population. Although longitudinal follow-up of the children is necessary to further elucidate the cause and reveal the ultimate neurological implications, these findings raise serious concerns about the potential adverse health consequences from developmental neurotoxicity associated with pesticide exposure in this vulnerable population.
Keywords: Brain network; DMN; Exposure; Farmworkers; Pesticide; fMRI.
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